Here's a breakdown of the news from the Chargers' eighth week of the season:
Monday: 'I think we've become a team'
The Chargers returned from their Week 7 bye on Monday and held their first team practice since the Friday before their Week 6 matchup in Baltimore.
The bye week proved to come at a good time for the Bolts as it gave time for injured players like defensive tackle Justin Jones, linebacker Drue Tranquil and safety Nasir Adderley to rest and get on track to potentially suit up in Week 8. Head coach Brandon Staley said on Monday that those three were 'trending positively' and was optimistic that they will play this weekend against New England. As for Kenneth Murray Jr., Staley explained the second-year linebacker was progressing well but still needs more time to recover from his ankle injury.
During the bye week, the Chargers signed wide receiver/return specialist Andre Roberts to help the team improve their kick and punt return game. Staley talked about the importance of having a return specialist like Roberts to return both kicks and punts moving forward for the Bolts.
"I feel like he's exactly what we need," Staley said. "We need someone with experience that has had a high level of production at the position. As recently as last year — really, the last three years — he has been extremely productive. I know that our coaching staff has a lot of respect for his game. I've been places that have faced him, being on the other side of it. I think that he is going to be a real asset, moving forward, for us. We'll see where it goes. Glad to have him. Him being an anchor, with experience and production, is going to be a real positive for both return units."
Staley then dove into the task at hand which is facing off against a Bill Belichick-led team that put up 54 points in Week 7 alone behind rookie quarterback Mac Jones. After giving praise to Jones, calling him an 'outstanding decision maker,' Staley talked about what he learned from the Bolts during the bye week. A key observation Staley made was that the Chargers are becoming a team as the season progresses.
"We have a team that believes in each other" Staley said. "I think we've become a team, which is really important in the NFL that you have that. Otherwise, you're just a collection of pieces. I know that our guys really believe in what we're doing here. I think we're battle-tested. Looking back and watching those six games that we've played, those are six real NFL environments that we were playing in. I think that's an advantage because you have a true assessment of where you're at in all three phases. You know where you need to go — you know where you've been, and you know where you need to go, how we need to evolve as we go. It's important. Our guys are really committed to how we do things on a day-to-day basis here."
Wednesday: Making moves at special teams
The Chargers continued to bolster their special teams unit with another addition to the team. The Bolts official signed kicker Dustin Hopkins on Tuesday, who was released from Washington earlier in the season, and waived kicker Tristian Vizcaino. Staley talked about why it was the right time to bring in Hopkins and what he liked about the kicker after he got a chance to work out for the team.
"We had the opportunity to bring Dustin in for a workout, and [former Falcons K] Elliott Fry from Atlanta. To get a kicker of his caliber, with his experience and production, we felt like we wanted to investigate that. He was just let go by [Washington], so we wanted to ensure that we explored that possibility and saw him kick live."
Wide receiver/return specialist Andre Roberts spoke to the media for this first time since being signed to the Bolts' roster during the bye week. Roberts, who is a Pro Bowl-caliber return man, will be taking over responsibilities at punt and kickoff returner. He views signing with the Bolts as a 'breath of fresh air' and talked about the key to adapting to a new team in the middle of the season.
"This is the first time that I'm joining a team in the middle of the season, but I have been to a lot of new teams from year to year. It's just getting to know guys, letting them get to know you a little bit; about your family, about where you are from, how you play the game. You just gravitate towards different guys. That's just how you do it."
Thursday: Focus on talented rookie quarterback
On Thursday, the full focus was on facing the New England Patriots on Sunday and getting a win after the bye week. Veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has faced the Patriots 10 total times throughout his NFL career, but this will be the first time he faces a rookie quarterback in a Patriots uniform. Harris gave high praise for Mac Jones' talents at the quarterback position.
"He's been great," Harris Jr. said. "I think for a rookie to come in and to learn this offense it's very difficult. To be able to make the checks and make the throws, he's been able to do that. So, I'm impressed with how he's playing as a rookie quarterback and it's definitely going to be a challenge."
Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi talked about what makes the Patriots defense so unique no matter what personnel is on the field.
"They're so good at knowing who their people are and developing their game plan and their philosophy around who they are," he said. "Their evolution every year, based on their personnel, is something that has always been impressive. They know who they are, they know who you are, and they know how to put a plan together that gives them the best chance to win."
A key piece of the Patriots defense this season has been the new addition of linebacker Matthew Judon. Judon has recorded 6.5 sacks and 12 QB hits in seven games for the Patriots. Lombardi talked about what makes him a special defender.
"We played Baltimore, I think it was back in 2018 when I was in New Orleans, and he was there. Just a guy that I remember being very concerned with back then, and that hasn't changed. He's a heavy guy."
While the Bolts were focused on the task at hand, the Patriots had a lot to say about facing off against the Bolts at SoFi Stadium. Take a look at what Bill Belichick had to say about Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert and the Chargers throughout the week.
Friday: Injury Updates
Running back Austin Ekeler was listed on the injury report with a hip injury and did not practice on both Thursday and Friday. On Friday, Staley talked about the status of the Bolts starting running back heading into Sunday's matchup.
"[Austin] came back [after the bye] and just had a really high-level practice," Staley said during Friday's press conference. "Finishing every run like crazy and just came up a little bit sore after the practice. Didn't happen during the practice but just felt a little soreness in his hip. Felt much better the last two days and we're hopeful that he can play."
Staley also was optimistic that linebacker Drue Tranquil will play on Sunday but remains questionable for his game status. While the Bolts haven't officially activated DL Justin Jones from IR, Staley told reporters on Friday that Jones practiced in pads all three practices this week and the hope is to have him active for the first time since Week 1.
Special teams coordinator Derius Swinton talked about the acquisition of Andre Roberts and what it means to have a special teams player of his caliber added to the roster in the middle of the season.
"I don't know how many times you can look at in the NFL where a three-time Pro Bowler is now a free agent." Swinton said. "You can't just pass that up. He has an impact in everywhere that he goes. If you look at just what he's done professional-wise the last few years of his career, the guy is a pro. He's a true pro."
As the Bolts head into the eighth week of the season, take a look at offensive, defensive MVP and more awards for the Bolts from beat writers that cover the team. The list of facing tough opponents continues for the Bolts as they face their fifth Super Bowl-winning head coach in seven games. Take a look at 10 insights into the Chargers vs. Patriots Week 8 matchup.
Odds and Ends
Videos of the Week
This week also brought a collection of videos to Chargers fans, take a look at the top videos released throughout the week.
Takeout with Justin Herbert and Gabe Nabers:
The first episode of 'Takeout' hosted by Chargers quarterback Chase Daniel aired this week. This episode featured a sit down interview with Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and fullback Gabe Nabers. Take a look as Herbert and Nabers talk about their favorite movies, how the victory brisket started, and what it was like living together.
Camera On: Derwin James and Asante Samuel Jr.:
Chargers team reporter Hayley Elwood sits down with safety Derwin James and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. to discuss their time at Florida State University and how it helped prepare them for the NFL. James and Samuel Jr. talk about why the Chargers feel like a family and how coach Staley gets the best out of them each week.
Pass The Sticks: Scott Quessenberry vs. Matt Feiler in NHL 22
This episode of 'Pass The Sticks' powered by Toyota features two Chargers linemen going head to head in a game of NHL 22. Take a look at who takes home the win and bragging rights.
Homecoming: Uchenna Nwosu
The latest instalment of 'Homecoming' features Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. Host Hayley Elwood and Nwosu go back to the USC campus where Nwosu shined during his college days. Nwosu talks about the his roots in Carson, California and what the city of L.A. and his time at USC means to him.
Tweets of the Week
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